Hold tight: George Clooney’s annual motorcycle tour may have a Spanish flavour this year. Jeremy Taylor saddles up in Andalusia…
Hollywood superstar George Clooney is acting royalty. With a string of blockbuster films to his name, fame and recognition follow the celebrity everywhere – which is why, once a year, he dons a leather jacket to escape the melee on a motorbike. Clooney, 56, still has a wild side, teaming up with close friends for his epic summer adventure on two wheels. Despite marrying barrister Amal Alamuddin in 2014, the screen heartthrob never misses the annual trip.
Riding with him is long-time friend, Rande Gerber. The pair run a tequila business called Casamigos and share neighbouring holiday homes in Mexico. In the past they have taken their Harley-Davidsons across America, toured the Dolomites and explored Corsica.
Gerber, who is married to former supermodel Cindy Crawford and runs a bar and restaurant empire, explained: “Sometimes we ride for 15 hours a day. We never know where we are going – we just get up and go on the highway. Our aim is to look for the road less travelled. George is pretty old school, so we just pack a map and don’t switch on the satellite navigation. There’s always somewhere to stay when we get tired.”
Clooney and Amal may have given birth to twins, but Gerber says that won’t prevent his friend getting on a bike again. “It’s cast in stone. We’ve discussed him being a dad and nothing stops the ride!”
Top of the ‘must-visit’ list this summer is Spain. Gerber and Clooney have been poring over maps and talking to friends about the best routes. “We thought we should check out Andalusia because of the mountain roads and passes. George likes to sit in a bar and ask the locals about the best places to go.”
To help the celebrity duo find their way, I’ve packed off to Spain with my friend Ian Smith – happily playing George Clooney to my Rande Gerber. He’s in IT and I’m not a Hollywood A-lister, but we do know how to ride a motorbike.
Clooney and his mates have enough money to fly their motorbikes anywhere on the planet – but what about the rest of us? Fortunately, Harley-Davidson has come up with the answer. The company’s Authorized Tours allow riders to hire bikes at more than 200 of their stores around the world. Bikers can choose from the company’s latest range of machines, some equipped with Bluetooth audio for the long road ahead. The most expensive models even have satellite navigation, far easier to read on a motorbike than George’s map.
The process is similar to hiring an upmarket car, with prices starting from around £140 per day. Riders need the appropriate motorcycle licence, while health insurance might be advisable, considering the state of some Spanish roads.
Our journey starts at the Harley-Davidson store in central Málaga, where assistant Jose Maria is adding the finishing touches to our rental machines. We’ve opted for a Heritage Softail Classic and a Road King – retro models designed for touring. Each has two leather panniers but there’s room on the empty pillion seat to strap on a further bag. Once I’ve established Cindy Crawford isn’t coming, I load up my gear and we head off into the Spanish rush hour traffic.
To communicate en route, ‘Mr Clooney’ and I are talking via an intercom system fitted in our helmets. It saves time stopping to talk and means we can listen to a little Spanish flamenco as the road unwinds ahead of us.
The A7000 to Colmenar is biker heaven; a series of sweeping corners that cuts across the centre of the Málaga Mountains National Park, punctuated by countless viewpoints and jaw-dropping vistas of the stunningly blue Mediterranean to the south.The smell of gorse and wild poppies filters through my nose as we cruise north-east under a scorching afternoon sun. There are no major towns here, just breathtaking scenery and the occasional horse and cart to slow our progress.
Our first stop is at La Bobadilla, tucked away in more than 1,000 acres of olive groves, near Loja. The sense of arrival when you finally pull up on the cobbled square outside is palpable – only the grumbling of our engines disturbs the peace.
There are no major towns here, just breathtaking scenery and the occasional horse and cart to slow our progress
La Bobadilla is the kind of retreat where a publicity-shy superstar can really get away from it all: palm trees, spa treatments and roomy suites with private terraces on which to unwind and consider the next film script.
The next day, we rise early to avoid the heat and set off due west, towards La Roda de Andalucía. The roads here are faster as we cross the southern plains, passing no-nonsense towns and the occasional vineyard.
We’re heading for the Andalusian bullfighting capital of Ronda. Sitting above a deep river ravine and surrounded by lush river valleys, it’s one of the most remarkable cities in the whole of Spain. The narrow cobbled streets aren’t well-suited to a heavyweight Harley, however, so we park up just outside of town.
Hotel La Fuente is small but tastefully furnished and located on a quiet hillside. The walls are loaded with artwork and there’s a palm tree that throws welcome shade over the swimming pool. Our room boasts an enormous outdoor bathtub that in different circumstances would wow any leading lady.
Superstars are few and far between in this remote corner of Spain but head 70 miles south to the coast and you never know who you will see. Pulling up at the newly refurbished Amare Marbella on a Harley-Davidson is always going to turn heads, even if you aren’t Clooney.
With our bikes safely stored in the underground car park, my B-list friend and I avoid the TOWIE hordes on the promenade below and relax on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. The views are magnificent, but this is definitely a place to be seen in your best pair of espadrilles.
Andalusia boasts the roads and the scenery to attract any biker on tour. And if your best mate is George Clooney, chances are nobody will recognise him in that helmet anyway.